Infantino proposes expansion of Women's World Cup and double prize money for 2023
Gianni Infantino, the president of Fifa, wants to expand the Women's World Cup from 24 to 32 teams for the 2023 tournament, and has also pledged to double the overall prize money.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, ahead of the final of this year's event in France, the Swiss official said: "I want to expand the tournament to 32 teams. We will have to act quickly if we are to increase it for 2023, if we do, we should reopen the bidding process to allow everyone to have a chance or maybe co-host. Nothing is impossible.”
Infantino said he would take this proposal to the Fifa council and member associations for approval.
Nine countries - Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and South Korea (jointly with North Korea) - have expressed interest in hosting the 2023 World Cup, and were given a deadline of 4 October to submit bid books, but the process could now be revised.
Infantino also claimed Fifa would double the prize money for the Women's World Cup to $60 million in time for the next tournament.
He said: “We have already more than doubled the prize money (to $30 million) for the World Cup this year, but we will double it again for the next World Cup – I am very confident that we can do that.”
For the men’s 2018 World Cup in Russia, there was a total prize money pot of $400 million.
Prize money has been a contentious issue at this year's Women's World Cup, with players from several teams, most notably the eventual champions USA, calling for larger payouts.
During USA's 2-0 win over Netherlands in the final in Lyon yesterday, fans of both sides repeatedly chanted for equal pay.
Megan Rapinoe, who scored USA's first goal in the final, said: “Every player at this World Cup put on the most incredible show that you could ever ask for. We cannot do anything more to impress more, to be better ambassadors, to take on more, to play better… It’s time to take it forward to the next step.”
The US women’s team has mounted a high-profile campaign for greater financial remuneration, and, indeed, is in the process of suing U.S. Soccer with the aim of achieving parity on pay with the less successful men’s team.
Fifa plans to double its investment in women's soccer from $500 million to $1 billion over the next four-year cycle.
In addition, Infantino returned to his previous suggestion for a Women's Club World Cup resembling that on the men's side.
He said: "I would like to propose a Club World Cup for women, starting as soon as possible. A real Club World Cup. We can only develop national football if we develop club football as well.”
Infantino believes the first women’s event could be played as early as 2020.
He also indicated that the introduction of a women’s tournament featuring promotion and relegation, like the new Uefa Nations League for European men’s teams, could increase competitiveness in the Women’s World Cup.
Infantino said: “In many parts of the world, unfortunately, qualification for the World Cup is just based on a tournament, there is no proper qualification. Even where there is, there can be preliminary rounds where some teams get eliminated after two games and then for four years they don’t play women’s football anymore. We cannot let this happen.”
Nonetheless, the Fifa president called the tournament in France "the best Women’s World Cup ever." The event generated record viewing figures for women's soccer in many countries, including France, the Netherlands and the UK.
Meanwhile, Fifa has confirmed that all eight countries that expressed interest in hosting the men's Fifa Under-20 World Cup in 2021 have formally entered the bidding process by submitting required terms and conditions by the deadline of 21 June.
There are five bids in total, as several countries have joined forces. Brazil, Peru and Indonesia have proposed solo bids, while there is a three-way offer from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and a joint bid from Myanmar and Thailand.
None of these nations have hosted the event in its current format, although both Saudi Arabia and the UAE staged the preceding Fifa World Youth Championship in 1989 and 2003 respectively.
The confirmed candidates now have until 30 August to submit formal bids.
Fifa expects to announce the host country at the next meeting of its council, in Shanghai, China, on 23 and 24 October.